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Majnun throwing himself onto Layla's grave, folio from a Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi
ca. 1450 or earlier


Delhi Sultanate period

Opaque watercolor and ink on paper
H: 34.0 W: 22.9 cm
Northern India, Northern India

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Poets and painters associated with the Sultanate courts of India created an artistic culture that integrated Persian, Islamic and local elements. The author of the Khamsa (Quintet), the great poet, musician and mystic Amir Khusrau (ca. 1253–1325), composed poetry in both Persian and Hindi. Two centuries later, painters at another Sultanate court depicted the Khamsa stories in a style that combined the rounded silhouettes and three-quarter profile faces of near Eastern painting with the strong color of local Indian painting.

The love story of Laila and Majnun is one of the oldest and most passionate of Islamic tales. It tells of the handsome and beloved Majnun, the son of a Bedouin, who falls in love with the beautiful Laila. Their parents refuse to allow them to meet and Laila is forced to marry. When Laila dies of grief, Majnun laments at her tomb. The painter emphasized the tragedy by isolating, upon a field of saturated red, Majnun's body draped listlessly over Laila's coffin.